Memoirs of Durga Puja at Mini Kolkata-Chittaranjan Park, Delhi
Delhi- a city of joy, fun, freedom and danger, sets stage for one of the best experiences and some of the most cherished memories associated with not just the people there but also the traditional Bengali culture to which we belong. This amazing city holds the potential to give a taste of our own Durga Puja which can touch the very depths of anyone’s heart in a way no less than experiencing the grandeur of Durga Puja in our own city Kolkata.
The hub of Bengalis and thriving Bengali culture in Delhi with the highest population of resident Bengalis is Chittaranjan Park, nicknamed CR Park. This locality has everything that we Bengalis need to survive, a massive fish market with the best fishes in the city, shops selling Kasundi, Shorsher Tel (mustard oil) & Posto (poppy seeds), a massive Kaali Mandir (Goddess Kali’s Temple), kiosks selling rolls and Mughlai food and what not.... It is no wonder that the locality is termed as ‘Mini Kolkata’.
Among all these attractions, the most engulfing attraction is Durga Puja, which is celebrated with the same zeal and enthusiasm as it is done in Kolkata. During this period, CR Park and Kolkata become mirror images of one another. This is a description based on the experiences of a Bengali group, who had newly moved to Delhi and had seen the celebrations of Durga Puja in both the cities. Durga Puja in CR Park, Delhi is a much awaited festival as much as it is in Kolkata. During this period a rainbow of cultures come together at Chittaranjan Park just to experience the Bengali Durgotsav in a place outside its origin.
Bengalis, who have experienced such integration of varied cultures, proudly claim to have been a part of this beautiful blend in a place outside their home town. Starting with the morning ‘Anjali’ on Mahashashti to the Puja Parikrama (pandal hopping) on Mahavami, Bengalis replay their entire Puja experience of Kolkata in Delhi itself. What is even more astonishing is that the concept of ‘paraar pujo’ is not alien to Delhite Benagalis.
The New Bengali group in Delhi got a little worried and felt home sick on the auspicious day of Mahashtami, as they were unaware of how and where to offer their prayers to the Goddess of Power. Sooner than later they realised that there were at least 4-5 Idols in and around the locality, namely Saket. They were overjoyed with this discovery and overwhelmed with the fact that they could offer prayers to the goddess at a Pandal close to their residence, as is common in Kolkata. The same evening they proceeded to CR Park, for Pandal hopping and were shocked to see the turnout. It was a scene beyond their expectations-extreme traffic, hoards of dressed up people, Bengalis, Punjabis, Tamilians, Gujaratis all alike, roll and phuchka kiosks....uffff. Nothing seemed different from their own Kolkata and since the appetite for their culture was not satisfied, they went for Pandal Hopping again on Mahanavami. On that day the crowd was even larger and the traffic was even worse than the day prior to that as it was the last day of this great festival.
Next morning on Dashami, it was announced in the newspapers that the turnout of pandal hoppers at CR Park was even more than 1 crore. Above everything else, what these numbers say is that our very own Durga Puja is not only a part of our precious Bengali culture but it is residing in the hearts of people from varied cultures and backgrounds in different cities across India. Maa Durga has the “power” to bring together all the cultures, a diversity and difference created by mankind.